Israel moves ahead on new housing

By William Booth

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the annual Government Press Office's (GPO) Civil New Year's toast. Photo / Getty Images
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the annual Government Press Office's (GPO) Civil New Year's toast. Photo / Getty Images

Israel announced a plan to construct 2500 housing units in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a decision made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just two days after he spoke to President Donald Trump.

The move appears to be a clear sign that the Israelis no longer fear American criticism of settlement construction, which is condemned by most of the world.

For eight years, Netanyahu and his right-wing allies bristled at the harsh condemnations of settlement growth by former President Barack Obama's Administration, which referred to the Israeli communities as "illegitimate" and "an obstacle to peace".

Trump has signalled a more accommodating stance toward Israel. He has called for moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, a city claimed as the capital of both Israel and a potential future Palestinian state. Trump's pick for US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is a hard-line opponent of the two-state solution and a supporter of the settlement enterprise in the West Bank.

The settlements have grown to house more than 400,000 Jewish residents in the West Bank and more than 200,000 in East Jerusalem.

The settlers believe that they are living on land granted to them by God and won in military victories against Arab armies hostile to the Jewish state.

"We're building - and will continue to build," Netanyahu said yesterday.

Netanyahu's promise to grow the settlements comes a little more than a week after diplomats from 70 countries met in Paris and criticised settlement building as a threat to a two-state solution.

In December, the UN Security Council passed a resolution condemning the settlements.

- Washington Post

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